In-Class Strategies | LSU University Writing Program

In-Class Strategies

The following activities were compiled by Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Teaching Excellence (VCU CTE). You can visit their website at


3-Step Interview: Assign pairs of students a topic/concept. Student-A interviews Student-B on the topic for a certain number of minutes, then students switch roles. After that period, two pairs of students form a group, and each pair introduces and highlights important points of their concept.


Academic Controversy: Choose a set of topics on which pro/con positions can be taken. Assign students into groups of 4 (2 pairs, each arguing one side of the issue). Have them reach a consensus and write or present a group report. Options: Allow them time to research in the library. Then, have each pair present their argument in class to get others input and write a group report. Pairs can switch sides of the argument to research the opposing view. No real time constraints on this technique; can be completed in a class period or over the length of a semester.


Analytic Memo: Students to write a 1-2 page analysis of a specific problem or issue for a specific audience that needs the students analysis to inform decision-making.


Clarification Pauses: Throughout the lecture, especially after an important point, STOP and let the point sink in, then ask if anyone needs clarification. It is helpful to circulate the room while you are waiting for responses; this will help students who generally feel uncomfortable asking questions.


Class Encyclopedia: Select a topic from the entire set of course concerns/issues. Have each student (or pairs) pick one and write "encyclopedia entries" that could be used for next year's class. Can be presented.


Concentric Circle: Use smaller groups within a larger group circle to start discussion of topic, then reverse. Each circle should have questions or comments about others. Helps to generate discussion.


Concept Maps: Have students draw/diagram a map connecting the major topic with what they consider its most important features or with other ideas and concepts that they have learned. Can use for class discussion or group work.


Co-Op Cards: In pairs, each partner prepares a set of flashcards with a question/problem on one side and the correct answer on the opposite side. One partner quizzes the other, prompting discussion, until the other answers all the problems correctly. Then students switch roles.


Daily Journal: Similar to one-minute papers, but can be done in class or as homework to be discussed. Can ask more in-depth questions or topics that require an evaluative response.


Drill-Review Pairs: Group four students as two pairs. Each pair is given two problems/questions to solve. Students are assigned the role of either the explainer (gives step-by-step instructions on how to do problem) or the accuracy checker (verifies correctness of methodology used to solve problem). After the first problem/question is completed, students switch roles for the second problem. After both problems are complete, both pairs regroup and explain their problems and solutions with each other until a consensus is reached.


Dyadic Essay Confrontation: Give students a reading assignment and ask them to write a question that integrates it with earlier material. They must respond by writing on a separate sheet of paper a one-page "model" answer. In the next class, student-pairs exchange questions and write a one page response to the partner's question. The students exchange their one-page model answers and their in-class writing. After reading their partner's in-class and model answers, the pair compare and contrast the models and in-class answers.


Empty Outlines: Provide students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class lecture or assigned homework reading and gives them limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces.


Everyday Phenomena: Have students take 2-4 minutes to make up a couple of questions about everyday phenomena that could be answered using the material covered that day. Can add incentive by stating that you will be using some of these questions on the test (can offer extra credit to those students whose questions are used).


Explaining Written Material: Pair up students and hand out a paragraph or article that includes complex concepts/terms. One member of each pair should explain each idea/step to the other. The explainer's partner should ask for clarification if anything is unclear and may give hints but is not to take over the job of explaining. Have one student describe to their partner one of the terms from the reading that is listed on the board; the other must attempt to identify the term being described. Have the students work for several minutes in this way. Then stop them, call on one or more pairs to summarize their work, and then have the students continue with the roles reversed.


Fish Bowl: Give students index cards to write down questions about the material covered. Put them in "fishbowl" towards the end of class. Pick up a couple to begin either discussion or the next class.


Focused Listing: Use as a brainstorming technique to generate definitions/ descriptions of topics. Ask students to take 3-5 minutes and list words or phrases that describe a concept. Can be used to generate class discussion. Students can form groups to compare lists and form the best overall description of topic.


Goal-Ranking / Matching: Use on the first or second day of class, have students list a few learning goals that they hope to achieve through the course. They should rank them in order of importance. Collect these to get an idea of how they compare to the overall goals of the course.


Guided Lecture: Have students listen to a 20-25 minute lecture without taking notes. When the lecture is complete, have students take 5 minutes to write down what they remember as the most important points. Form groups and have students spend 10-15 minutes sharing, elaborating, and posing any questions that they have on the concepts covered.


Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning: Give a brief (10-20 minute) lecture on a topic area.Then give students a generic set of question stems. Students work individually to form questions based on the material. They do not have to be able to answer the questions that they pose. Use these to form groups for discussion or to lead class discussion. Some example question stems:

  • What is the main idea of ___?
  • What if ___?
  • How does___ affect ___?
  • Explain why or how ___?
  • What conclusions can I draw about…?
  • What is the difference between…?
  • How would I use ___ to ___?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of ___?
  • What is the meaning of ___?
  • Why is ___ happening?
  • What would happen if ___?
  • What is another way to look at ___?
  • What are the implications of ___?
  • Why is ___ important?
  • What is the solution to the problem of ___?
  • What is the best ___ and why?
  • How does ___ apply to everyday life?


How-To Problem: Have students describe a solution to a problem, analyze the relationships between each instruction, and write them down step-by-step. Then have students exchange instructions and have their partner attempt to follow them-let partner or class decide if directions are sufficient.


Jigsaw: Form groups and assign each group part of a chapter/different articles. Each group presents their part to the remainder of the class so that the entirety of the information has been covered. Professor can lead a question and answer session at the end if desired.


Letters Home: Students paraphrase in informal language what they are learning in the form of a letter to parents/friends. Helps students to internalize material by stating it in their own words. Also helps to recognize relationships between the course material and their everyday life.


Match-Up Exercise: Give each student a piece of information that requires a second or third piece to make complete sense. Have them walk around the room to find the classmate(s) that have the complementary information. Then have each pair/group present to the rest of the class how their information matches.


Memory Matrix: Instructor hands out a two-dimensional diagram: a rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize info and illustrate relationships. Row- and column-headings are given, but the cells are left empty for students to fill in information. Can turn in for an individual grade or have students work in groups.


Microthemes: Short writing assignments that encourage students to invest substantial study time prior to discussing ideas with other students. The goal can be less the writing and more the ability for the student to be able to present their research and ideas to the class. 4 basic categories:

  • Summary Writing: Ask students to give a summary of a reading assignment, with understanding of both structure and primary/secondary points of reading
  • Thesis-Supported: Ask students to provide a statement that has a clear choice between 2 opposing viewpoints. Students take one viewpoint and provide supporting evidence for that perspective
  • Data-Provided:Give students a series of related statements and ask them to draw a conclusion. Helps them arrange data in a logical order and generate a general statement from what they have induced
  • Quandary-Posing: Ask students to respond to a conceptual question.


Minutes: One student per class is chosen to take "minutes" of that class period. They must present this information at the beginning of the next class as a quick review/quiz/discussion.


Name Your Own Poison: Announce at the beginning of class that you will be giving a pop quiz in the last 10 minutes of class on the material covered. Fifteen minutes before the end, form groups of 3-4, and have each group make up one quiz question. Collect questions and give them a first question that you have prepared, select 1-2 more from their responses.


Note-Taking Pairs: Pause periodically during your lecture. Take 3-5 minutes to have students pair up, compare notes, and highlight the important points.


One-Minute Papers: In the last 10-15 minutes of class, ask the following questions: (1) "What is the most important thing that you have learned today?"; (2) "What are 1 or 2 important questions that have regarding the lecture?"; (3) "What subject would you like to know more about?" (You can also ask questions regarding the lecture or chapter.) Have students write down answers. Collect them; they can be used to start the next class lecture.


One-Sentence Summaries: Have students answer these questions on a specific topic in one long grammatical sentence: Who/What, When, Where, Why, How?


Paired Annotations: Students pair up to learn or review an article/chapter/topic and exchange "double-entry" (includes section for critical points and a section for responses/questions) journals that they have composed. Have them look for similarities and differences in thinking. Together can have students complete a composite annotation that summarizes all the information. Can be turned in or presented.


Panel Discussion / Debates: Self-explanatory. Can assign for entire class or separate into smaller groups and have the remainder of the class be the judges.


Phillips 66: Six people share opinions for 6 minutes; then the remainder of the class and the instructor can comment or discuss for 5-10 minutes.


Profile of an Admirable Individual: Have students to write a brief, focused profile of an individual in a field related to course material whom they greatly admire their values, skills, or actions.


Question-and-Answer Pairs: Have students read an assignment before class and make up 1-2 questions. In class, have them pair up and attempt to answer the other's questions. If desired, students can be asked to turn in question and answer summaries.


Reaction Sheets: Used early in the semester or to start a new chapter/subject matter. Have students write down, and then discuss, their reactions to the topics covered, those new to them, those they question, and those that "hit home." Helps to generate discussion.


Recalling Prior Material: At the beginning of class, take 3-5 minutes and have students brainstorm the most important concepts from the previous class lecture, or the 3 most important points of that day's assigned readings.


Role-Playing Exercises: Self-explanatory. Can choose certain time periods or issues with varying viewpoints.


Roundtable: Have students form groups (1 pen/sheet of paper per group). Pose questions (different questions or a couple with multiple answers). Students take turns stating their answers and writing them down. After writing an answer, the student passes the paper to the left.


Scavenger Hunt: Give out a paper with 5-10 questions. Students must go around the room and find others who can answer those questions (write down names and answers on sheet). Activity can be used as a "get to know you" game or to test material.


Send a Problem: Group students. Each member generates a question on the material and writes it on an index card. Each question is asked to all members of the group until there is a consensus reached regarding the correct answer, which is then written down on the other side of the index cards. Each group sends the question cards to another group. The next group reads each question one at a time and discusses them. If they all agree on the answer, they turn the card over to see if they agree with the first group. If so, they proceed to the next question; if not, they write their answer down as an alternative. Once all cards are back to the original groups, discussion of alternative answers is used to clarify material.


Stage Setting I: Provide your students with a set of questions at the beginning of class and the instructions that they must listen for the answers within the following lecture. These questions/answers can then be used in numerous ways if desired.


Stage Setting II: Before you start a new topic, have students take 3-4 minutes and write down everything that they know about the topic to that point. You can have a few students share their ideas as a way to lead into the discussion.


Student Reports: Three different examples used to have students present without taking up as much class time and without the majority of the class in a passive role:

  • Poster Session: This method reflects a process scientists use to share ideas. Groups present their solutions to a problem in the form of a concept map, an outline, or a poster typical of those found at professional meetings One student is given the task of being the spokesperson while other group members view other groups' posters. They rotate roles so that all have the chance to be spokesperson
  • Team Rotation: Groups prepare a 10-minute presentation on an experiment they have done, topic or problem. Groups are paired and each group gives the presentation to the other group. The second group responds with questions, asks for clarifications, and comments on the overall quality of the presentation. The groups switch roles and the second group presents its 10-minute report. Groups use the remaining class time to refine and practice their presentations. This process can be repeated with different groups, allowing them to improve and try again. Instructor can walk around to give feedback and general comments.
  • Three Stay, One Stray: The student gains experience by presenting and teaching while the other students gain experience asking probing questions. It is an efficient method since all groups report simultaneously instead of sequentially. One group member from each group is asked to switch into another group. This student presents his group's report to this new group. Again, spokesperson can rotate either per each presentation of report, or on each project throughout the semester.


Student's Summary of Another's Answer: After one student has volunteered the answer to a question, have another student summarize that answer and then elaborate/add anything that they can think of.


Student-Teaching: At the beginning of the semester, put the class into groups. Each group takes a turn making up a quiz for the class throughout the semester. Can also have each group do an outside assigned reading and come prepared to teach the material to the rest of the class.


Study Teams: Form long-term groups for students at the beginning of the semester. The primary responsibility is support and assistance in understanding the material. Groups can meet during assigned class times or outside of class. Helps to assign roles that can be switched throughout the semester, such as recorder, spokesperson, summarizer, checker/corrector, skeptic, organizer/manager, observer, timekeeper, conflict resolver, and liason to other groups or the instructor.


Team Troubleshooting: Have students form groups of 3-4. Pose a question or problem; ask teams to troubleshoot for 5 minutes and write down their ideas. Stop and collect the papers.


Thinking-Aloud Pair-Problem Solving (TAPPS): Pair students, and give each pair a series of problems. The two students are given specific roles that switch with each problem: Problem Solver and Listener. The problem solver reads the problem aloud and talks through the solution to the problem. The listener follows all of the problem solver's steps and catches any errors that occur. For the listener to be effective, he or she must also understand the reasoning process behind the steps. This may require the listener to ask questions if the problem solver's thought process becomes unclear. The questions asked, however, should not guide the problem solver to a solution nor should they explicitly highlight a specific error except to comment that an error has been made.


Think, Pair, Share: Pose a question to the class. Have students think of an answer and write it down. Have students form pairs and discuss responses. Randomly call on a few students to share their answers.


Visioning and Futuring: Real-life application of material. Have either individual or groups take 5-10 minutes to imagine how the topic might change 10-20 years from now.


What's Fuzzy: 10 minutes before the end of class, ask "What's fuzzy?" Allow verbal responses that are addressed immediately, and collect written responses from which you choose 1 to start the next class.


Word Journal: Requires a 2-part response. First, student will summarize a short text read in a single word. Next, the student writes a paragraph or two explaining why they chose that particular word to summarize the text.